While most people recognize they can sue a driver who negligently collides with their vehicle, a passenger’s right to bring a lawsuit for collision-related injuries can be a bit more confusing. Passengers have the legal right to seek compensation just like a driver has such rights. This blog post outlines your legal rights as a passenger and discusses issues an injured passenger might face when pursuing an insurance claim or lawsuit.
Although accidents sometimes involve more than just the at-fault driver and the injured driver, who can also be partially at-fault, passenger injury claims often involve more than just two parties. Either driver or both could be liable for a passenger’s injuries, which means that the driver of the car the passenger was riding in could be liable for compensation for the passenger’s injuries and other losses.
Since an injured passenger usually knows the driver of the car he or she is riding in, this can make pursuing an insurance claim and/or filing a personal injury lawsuit a bit more sensitive. Although an injured passenger might be hesitant to pursue a claim against a family member or friend, medical bills arising out of a car accident can be expensive. If the injury victim must miss time off work or suffers disability or disfigurement, serious injuries necessitate an insurance claim to handle these types of financial challenges.
Although the number and identity of the parties can complicate a passenger claim, more potentially liable parties also provide additional sources for recovering damages. While one or both drivers could be liable, an injured passenger might also have a claim against the owner of either vehicle, the manufacturer of the vehicle and/or its parts or systems, and/or other parties depending on the facts, circumstances, and applicable law.
By way of example, a vehicle approaches an intersection and proceeds straight on a green light while exceeding the speed limit. The driver of a second vehicle blows through a red light and T-bones the first vehicle that had right of way. However, the driver of the second vehicle claims that his brakes failed when he attempted to stop. While the driver who blew through the red light would almost certainly be liable, the driver of the second vehicle, the passenger was riding in, might also be partially liable for speeding. The manufacturer of the brakes and/or vehicle, as well as the shop that recently serviced the brakes, might also be partially liable. An experienced accident lawyer will know how to identify potential liable parties and investigate to uncover all potentially applicable insurance coverage.
Since passengers typically are friends, family, associates, and acquaintances of the driver of one of the vehicles, this can make an injured pedestrian less comfortable about pursuing a claim. Since every state requires drivers to carry a certain amount of insurance to cover car accident-related injuries and loss, the insurance carrier of the driver will be paying the claim rather than the friend or family member who was driving. Depending on the jurisdiction, passengers might be able to seek compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of income, and more. However, the right to bring a legal claim is subject to strict time limits, so you should seek legal advice promptly to protect your legal rights as well as the value of your injury claim.
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